Organisations are often caught off guard when the media ring for comment on a story of interest. By remembering a few handy tips you can manage your way through this process:
What to do
Ask the reporter the following questions:
- Name of reporter and media outlet calling from?
- Telephone number and extension number so you can call back?
- Nature of inquiry – what are they ringing about?
- Reason for inquiry – why are they ringing about this at the present time?
- Deadline for publication or broadcast (and time) – this is important so that you can meet journalist requirements around timing.
Offer to call back in 10 minutes or ask him/her to call you back. If you agree to ring back, make sure you do and within the time promised! If it is a simple inquiry – deal with it there and then.
If you agree to call back, write out what you want to say develop a set of key messages and stick to them. Particularly focus on the important messages and keep coming back to them. It doesn’t matter if you repeat them. Use the time to contact third parties if necessary, work out a line of action, agree a form of words or a statement.
Try to be brief and to the point. Reporters work under pressure and will appreciate this.
Don’t be drawn into speculation or making comments that are off the cuff.
Nothing is off the record – if you don’t want it printing/broadcast then don’t say it!
Know when to stop talking – give your message and reply and then stop.
Don’t fill in any silence gaps.
Don’t avoid answering – if you don’t like the question turn it into a positive response.
A media plan and protocols are key for any organisation whether small or large. Media plans cover things like – who can speak to the media, sign off required on comment and when to escalate an issue. For more information on how to develop a media plan or further management around media issues, contact a Cherry Red consultant.